If my blog schedule has gone to plan you should be reading this shortly after receiving the GCE and GCSE examination results for this year. Let’s cut to the chase here, it’s a horrible time of year where, despite your best efforts and regardless of how confident you are in your students’ performance; you still wait with dread to see how your subject or department has done. For some you will be checking online in the early hours, for others it’s a wait until the morning or even, as has been the case for me many times, a text from school to a far flung beach resort.
Nothing can take the shine off your holiday like unexpected results (of the disappointing variety) and conversely that first Mojito you polish off that evening can double as a celebratory drink. So why is it that we often take these results so personally and why do we so often anticipate unpleasant news?
The former comes down to your professionalism and how much you personally have invested in your subject. As a sole teacher of the subject for many years I know that those results reflected directly on my teaching rather than the combined efforts of several subject teachers. Having also worked in high achieving private schools and gained a reputation for achieving a 100% pass rate there was that niggling doubt that this year might be the one where the halo would slip.
At the other end of the scale, when working in more challenging schools, it was the fear that maybe the students might not meet the current floor standard, their 3 or 4 levels of progress or simply do worse than the PE department again.
I think you can tell a lot about a teacher from how short their nails are the days before results are released. Often those that have worked their socks off all year really care about the outcomes but I have also known many teachers who simply don’t give the results a second thought until they get them on September’s INSET day. Whether this is indifference, a lack of genuine interest in the students achievements or simply a refusal to let something now beyond their control ruin their summer break I will leave for you to decide.
As for the reasons that we often fear the worst, I believe it is very much down to the nature of the subject and the process of moderation and examination. Even after many years of teaching I never felt before results day that anything was ‘in the bag’ and I have had many pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Doubts in the results begin in May and June as we anticipate the arrival of a moderator. Those that don’t receive that phone call can at least know that their results for the CA have been accepted so some proportion of 50% of the marks are ‘safe’ but if a moderator has visited you have that extra layer of doubt that your marks will remain unaltered. Then there is the students’ performance in written tests through the year and you really don’t know how they performed on the day. Even if they have consistently done well in mock examinations you probably don’t completely trust the process of examination marking especially if you have had bad experiences of this in the past. Design and Technology is also a very complex area of study and the practical results, both drawn and manufactured, can be very subjective unlike academic subjects where there is often a right or wrong answer in a terminal examination.
So, the results have come and gone and now it’s time to deal with the aftermath. If its GCE results there can be many implications for higher education and you may already have spent the last week trying to sort out University entries (I did say in a previous blog that teachers rarely get 6 weeks off in summer!). You may already be making a list of the students whose papers you are having remarked either because you have doubts about the standard of marking or because students/parents are already putting pressure on you to do so. Hopefully you are not having to make a decision regarding the costly process of having coursework remarked and then had the sleepless nights wondering exactly where the projects might be after the summer holidays!!
If I appear to be writing this in the third person it’s because this is the first time in many years that I won’t be waiting in anticipation for results day as I have had little direct involvement in work of DT students this year and subsequently left the profession for the foreseeable future. There are students I taught for many years and I will no doubt check in with ex colleagues to see how they have fared but it’s a very strange feeling to know that their results no longer reflect directly on my recent teaching. It’s equally liberating to know that I won’t be returning to school in September and that I have to neither account for the summer examination results nor have to act further upon them.
For those of you who are doing exactly that, I wish you the very best and hope that you at least had a relaxing summer break before heading once more into a new school year ready to go through all of this again. For those who got the results they hoped for or better, enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction and don’t forget just how good that sense of achievement felt when the long, cold winter term inevitably begins to erode your enthusiasm. Hopefully by then the results good or bad, like the summer, will seem like a long distant memory.
Paul taught Design and Technology for 23 years in a range of schools with stints as HOD and Head of a Creative Arts Faculty as well as teaching Art, ICT, Photography and Media Studies. He is currently taking a break from education to return to the design industry.
His Subject Genius blog was shortlisted for the 2016 TES Awards.